Lately, Facebook seems to be having a bit of trouble with its automated censoring program. After inadvertently deleting a note by Sarah Palin last week, Facebook is now blocking users from creating pages with the word “Palestinian” in the page title. On Sunday, blogger Rex Bryen attempted to create a Facebook page for his nonpartisan research and policy analysis project, Palestinian Refugee ResearchNet, only to run afoul of Facebook’s automatic censorship.
After a bit of experimenting, Bryen found that titles such as “Afghan Refugee ResearchNet,” “DR Congo Refusgee ResearchNet,” and even “Israeli Refugee ResearchNet” make it through the filer just fine. “Al-Qaeda Refugee ReserachNet” and “Nazi Refugee ResearchNet,” however, are blocked. From the PRRN blog:
It does seem a bit odd, however, that a population of up to 12 million people, receiving more than a billion dollars in international aid each year, recognized by the UN, and enjoying a degree of formal diplomatic recognition from the United States—is placed in the same filtered category as Nazis and al-Qaida.
Today, Gawker did a bit more research and notes that “Palestine” and “Palestinians” are acceptable in page titles. More interestingly, “Palestinian,” is fine in a group title; it’s only blocked as a page title. (Note: Groups and pages are two separate things.) From Gawker:
So it’s not that Facebook is deliberately partaking in some worldwide anti-Palestinian conspiracy; rather, it appears that their automation process has decided to block the word “Palestinian”—and only the world “Palestinian”—from page titles—and only from page titles.
Bryen is intent on figuring out exactly what Facebook finds so objectionable about the word “Palestinian” and is currently wading through the site’s automated customer service. In the meantime, it looks like it’s safe to conclude that while this incident might not be indicative of a wider conspiracy, its still an intriguing inconsistency in social media censorship.
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